Should you use Wikipedia as a credible resource?
because even though Wikipedia is one of the Webs most popular reference sites,
it isnt a credible resource because anyone is allowed to be a contributor to
Wikipedia Academic has posted an article explaining why
it is a bad idea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Academic_use)
Below is the article:
Caution: It is often
a bad idea to cite an encyclopedia in academic research papers.
Wikipedia is increasingly used by people in the academic
community, from first-year students to professors, as the easiest source of
information about anything and everything. However, citation of Wikipedia in
research papers may not be considered acceptable, because Wikipedia is not a
This can be avoided by following two simple rules:
- Do your research assignment properly. Remember that any
encyclopedia is a starting point for research, not an ending point.
- An encyclopedia is great for getting a general understanding of a
subject before you dive into it. But then you do have to dive into your subject,
using books and articles and other appropriate sources. What you find in your
other sources will be more detailed, more precise, and more carefully reasoned
than the summary you found in an encyclopedia. The sources you cite in your
paper will be the more detailed sources you have used. All you need to do with
Wikipedia, then, is thank it in your heart.
An encyclopedia is great for checking little details.
Little details may be:
- General knowledge that you have forgotten, like the starting date
First World War or the boiling point of
mercury. In that case, you should recognize the information once you find
it, and know it’s right. Citation is not needed for things that are general
- A somewhat obscure point, like the population of
Ghana. If this matters for your assignment, you should verify the
information using a tried and tested source, such as the
CIA World Factbook.
- A very obscure point, such as the names of the founders of the
Social Democrat Hunchakian Party. This may be almost impossible to find
anywhere other than Wikipedia, unless you read
Armenian, which you probably don’t, or are prepared to spend an hour in the
library, which you probably don’t want to. In this case, you should rely on–and
Use your judgment. Remember that all sources have to be
- If your professor has assigned you an article or a chapter, that
means your professor thinks it is basically OK. Do you trust your professor?
That’s usually enough.
- If a book is in your university library or published by a
university press, or if an article is in a standard
academic journal, that means that several professors at some point thought
it was basically OK. But time may have passed, and the book or article may now
be out of date.
- If your source is a website, it may be great or it may be awful.
- A Wikipedia article may be as good as (or better than!) an article
assigned to you by your professor, or it may contain inaccurate information and
eccentric judgments. It is unlikely to be as bad as the worst sort of website.
You have to judge.
Increasingly Wikipedia information will be referenced
with academic references. Hopefully when you see a fact in Wikipedia you will
be able to quickly verify it with an online, academic source, which you can cite
instead of Wikipedia.
Connors State College is not liable for the
information stated above.